One of the great entrepreneurial success stories that is rarely given its due is ESPN. Explaining to today’s college students that the world once existed without 24-hour sports television is akin to the evolutionary disbelief in the fossilized existence of a tethered telephone. So it’s great to see an interview in Forbes with ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen.
Take, for example, the fortunate events which lead to ESPN’s decision to focus only on sports:
I was behind the wheel of a blue Toyota Corolla, [my son] Scott was in the passenger seat with a pen in hand and a yellow legal pad on his lap. And the air conditioner was broken. We were in traffic on I-84 in Connecticut, it was sweltering hot, and we had all the windows rolled down. And we were trying to come up with ideas to fill 8,760 hours a year of television programming.
We had been talking back and forth for a while, until Scott finally said something like, ‘Play football all day, for all I care.’ And suddenly, the ideas started coming fast and furious during that car ride, we came up with the idea for ‘Sports Center,’ we had designed the entire building we would be in, we had decided what types of sports we should go after.
Thus was ESPN born, after a series of trials and tribulations that every entrepreneur will appreciate. “A salesman once told me that every sale starts with a no” Rasmussen says, so “we knew we were going to be really be big because we got lots of no’s in the beginning.” Yes, indeed.